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Dave Jenkins

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We Need To Talk About AKAS

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We Need To Talk About AKAS

AKAS is new name to the scene, but the man behind the name isn’t quite so new…

Meet Steve KG. Over the years he’s been a promoter, an agent, worked in record stores and ate, slept and breathed electronic music since he first heard it on pirate radio as a kid.

Most pertinently, though, Steve was best known as an artist who came through the mid-2000s and consequently scored releases on Ram sub-label Frequency, Urban Takeover, Phantasy’s Easy Records and Viper. For a spell, he was also a label owner behind the hugely influential Talkin Beatz. A short-lived imprint with a long-lived legacy, Talkin Beatz is where Netsky, Fred V & Grafix, Dimension and others all had early, formative releases before going on to do the great things they’ve done.

In fact Fred V and Grafix cite Steve’s influence on this very site. Eight years ago, when they released their debut album Recognise, we asked them to recognise some people who’ve helped their career.

“Steve was the first person to invest money into releasing our music on vinyl which we have always been very grateful for,” they told us at the time. “His Talkin’ Beatz label was also one of the first labels Netsky released on before blowing up. Anyone who knows Steve knows that he’s one of the nicest people in the scene and always has time for a chat. We are looking forward to hearing more new music from him soon!”

Back to the future and Steve is now back as AKAS and has already made a big impression with collaborations with iconic MCs like Spyda and massive Beatport top sellers like Oldskool Newskool with Georgia Phoenix and 2Shy MC which was released on Rene LaVice’s DeVice imprint last year. He’s now returned to the label with a switch-flipping, rave-busting 140 BPM breakbeat cut entitled I Know, a bootleg of a viral Tik Tok tune and a sample pack.

Busy busy; and he’s still holding down a day job as a postman, too… Because it wasn’t that long ago he thought he’d never even return to drum & bass. Whether you know AKAS’s past work, or he’s still a new name to you, this story runs deep. Get to know…

DeVice · AKAS & KG – I Know feat. Sophie Paul

Before we get to all things AKAS… Let’s set the scene. You introduced some big artists to the world. Fred V & Grafix, Netsky and early releases from Dimension and the artist now known as 1991.

I’ve got to say, Dimension did put out some releases on Regal Records before he was on a release for me, but yeah it’s cool and I’m proud of that. I’m not a big fan of going back to the past to be honest. But yeah, I had front row seats and it’s amazing to see how these artists have grown.

The whole label came about because I had this amazing tune from Netsky and no one was up for signing it. It was at the tail end of vinyl, things were very different and labels were being very conservative. So I suggested we put his tune Lost In This World on one side and my tune Life on the other and release it on a new label. I got a P&D deal from Nu-Urban. The whole concept of the label was ‘let the beats do the talking…’ Talkin Beatz.

Wow. So a label wasn’t part of the plan?

Eventually it was, but not at that time. But Nu-Urban gave me that opportunity. Another plan I had was to set up a jump-up label with Majistrate so things could have gone in a very different direction. But Talkin Beatz came about and my mission was to get a crew of like-minded souls together and start touring.

How did you come across the artists?

Well with Fred V & Grafix, for example, I’d heard one of Fred’s tunes and I asked him if I could release it. I was starting to get sent music for the label, too. Releasing that Netsky track got a lot of attention because that was a big tune and a turning point for him and for me and the label.

You’d been producing for quite some time before, right? Since the mid 2000s?

I’d been releasing music since then. My first production, uncredited, was Eksman – Na Blood. That was my first ever production. It was pretty big at the time and the video was being played on TV music channels a lot. I think my first release after that was Big Muma on Urban Takeover. Then Apocalypto on Easy Records.

It was an exciting time. A lot of big jump-up tunes. Pendulum coming through, lots of new labels…

It was an exciting time and things were really beginning to open up. I don’t care what anyone says, before then things were a pretty closed shop. Every label had a very tight clique, and it was a challenge getting onto any labels.

You’re right about the jump-up. And being a boy from Kent, I was surrounded by that so jump-up was my first language but I loved every style of D&B, deep down, I wanted to write songs. Like drum & bass songs. So when we arrive the AKAS sound now, I’ve kinda gone back to my roots – collecting records and listening to pirate radio and putting all of those elements I loved about it in.

Riot Dubs · Akas – Let Me Go

D&B songs didn’t exist much back then. A few did – Love’s Theme, for example – but the scene wasn’t ready for it.

No it wasn’t. I did write a few song type things back then but never released them because I thought they wouldn’t have worked.

The turning point was partly through a lot of artists you signed who went on to write big crossover bangers. But by then you’d left the scene. Were you jaded with the scene?

There was a lot of reasons why I stepped back as an artist. But bottom line I’d been mugged off so many times I fucked it off. Left, right and centre I was getting knocked and I’d had enough. It had a massive impact on my mental health. When you’re really passionate about something you love, it can really get to you and it literally destroyed my soul.

Ah man. Heard this story so many times, and experienced it…

It’s the darker side of the music industry, right? But fundamentally I was pushing some great talents simply because I wanted the world to hear them, and I really loved what they were doing. But I never had anyone doing that for me. Talkin Beatz became this great stepping stone for people though, because of the success of people like Netsky, so people came to me for that push. But I had no backing myself. It was a lot of hard work and that wasn’t sustainable. So it wasn’t all doom and gloom, I did get to travel the world and meet some awesome people.

Yeah ups and downs isn’t it. I hear you on the stepping stone vibe. I’ve spoken to guys like DJ Hybrid at Audio Addict about that; how to take a label from being an exciting breeding ground for new talent to a label with a community of artists who grow with the label. It’s hard isn’t it?

Yeah very hard and Alex, DJ Hybrid, is a shining example of how to do it. The thing I respect about him is that he’s doing it by himself. I can relate to that and I know how much hard work it is to do that. He’s good to work with and he’s honest and has organic views on things. The scene has become quite corporate in places so people like Alex are refreshing to work with.

I mean, once was a time when I wanted to take this as far as I could and be that headliner but I don’t care about that now. It would be nice to be able to make music full time but I got a job, I do my thing and I’m really happy with the music I put out.

Audio Addict Records · Akas – Reset

So many artists I speak to who are the most content have day jobs – no pressure

Yeah. It’s knackering, though. I have a physical full-time job and it’s hard work getting the inspiration and motivation.

I bet. But I would say that you now have people who are pushing you like you mentioned. Firstly – DJ Ollie. A real stalwart of the scene. He contacted me about your comeback and he released your comeback tunes. He believes in you.

Yeah actually huge shout to Ollie, you’re right. I actually booked him for an event I was running when I was kid and we ended up working together in Bitin’ Back Records. But yeah I first met Ollie when I was a promoter. He was a bit of a local legend back then and that’s how I got to know him. And yeah, he’s been really supportive and that’s great that you’ve noticed that. Who’s the other person who you’ve seen backing me, then?

Rene LaVice! He’s released a whole load of your tunes, he plays you on the radio a lot, your releases and a mix. He appears to be really into what you’re doing.

Okay yeah I’ll take that, too. He’s been really supportive hasn’t he?  I’m blessed with that. There are so many people making good tunes out there and he’s picked my music to play, that’s great. I’m very very grateful of that and it’s mad because I don’t know him personally.

No past relationship from the old days?

No not at all. And the last release – Old Skool New Skool – has been one of the top selling D&B tunes on Beatport for some time now. How mad is that?

That’s awesome and testament to you and your abilities as an artist.

Haha, I don’t think I have that many abilities but thank you and I’m chuffed with the success of the tune.

It’s got the building blocks of what makes you – the song aspect, the love for all styles, the roots.

Totally yeah and I made it with Georgia Phoenix who’s my girlfriend so that makes it even more special. And when you say about people pushing me who’ve got my back then Georgia is number one.

Nice!

It’s hard having a girlfriend who’s a producer, though. When I’m after some thoughts on a project I’m working on she can be brutal with feedback, or she doesn’t want to listen to it because she’s deep inside a tune of her own.

Ah I’d never thought about that. I’d only ever pictured something quite romantic about a couple making music together…

Yeah it sounds lovely doesn’t it? But honestly in most of these situations it’s two very intense people who are pursuing a very technical craft so it’s not always smooth creative sailing. But we have made music together and she’s amazing and super talented and really inspiring. She was part of me coming back and I love that fact.

There’s the romance! Did you listen to D&B when you weren’t in the scene?

Sometimes yeah. I even made a bunch of it from time to time, but it did kinda trigger feelings and I did have points where I didn’t listen to it. The reason I stopped the label was because Nu-Urban went bust and I lost a lot of money, I also got fucked around by a lot of artists, and a lot of people who I thought were my friends just upped and vanished. That’s when you find your true friends.

Yeah! Big up some true friends man. The scene isn’t all crooks and blaggers

Danny Byrd and Brookes Brothers and 2Shy MC. Top, top top guys who stayed in touch during some pretty bleak times. There have been other mates in the industry, obviously, but I often describe the drum & bass scene as a really nasty girlfriend who couldn’t give a fuck about me but I still keep coming back for more.

Haha. I’ve heard similar descriptions from others. Take me back to the start of the love affair though…

I’m very close to south London and Essex and growing up in the 90s there were more pirate stations than commercial stations. Being a little kid and hearing pirate radio for the first time was mindblowing! Going to record shops from the age of like eight or nine, buying tape packs and vinyl. You can see my vinyl here. I still got those records but yeah pirate radio was a huge influence on the scene – the raves, the vinyl sales, the DJs who came through. I’d save my pocket money and school dinner money and spend it on records.

What’s your most treasured record in your collection?

I got too many to mention man. Some are priceless to me. I can pick up a record and remember the place, the time, the people, even the smells. They’re all treasured to me in a way. That’s too hard to answer off the top of my head mate.

Back to the future. You got loads out right now…

Yeah, I am just about to give away my bootleg – If I Would Have Known. I’ve also got a track called I Know, which is 140 BPM tune, and I’ve a jungle sample pack. Quite a few things all bubbling away.

If I Would Have Known, the bootleg you mentioned, is the song-style D&B you were talking about…

It is yeah. More of a radio vibe than a playing out vibe. I found it through stories and it kept on coming up – people doing covers or lip-syncing it. It kept coming up and getting into my head and I thought ‘damn I need to remix this’. The original guy who sang it is Kyle Hulme to give him credit. Certain tunes come along and I think ‘I need to do something with this!’ and that’s one of them.

Tell me about I Know…

That’s me and all my influences again. Essentially AKAS is about me having fun and this tune is all my hardcore and rave influences. I’ve done another tune which is coming out on Nightshift’s new label which is very Prodigy influenced. So that’ll be coming out at some point later this year, too. I’m a bit scared of putting out different tempo things and people might be like ‘what the fuck has he done that for?’ But I’m just being me and I just want to write music and have fun no matter what the style or tempo is. I have never wanted to be the type of producer who writes the same style over and over again, that would be far too boring!

It’s nice to flex the tempos and not sit in one box. You’ve been on such a journey…

Yeah and that’s where it started for me and the reason I fell in love with this music was the whole merging of genres – hip-hop, techno, house music, reggae. Like a proper melting pot.

What’s coming out next from your melting pot?

A few more tunes on DeVice, a collab with DJ Hybrid, a track with MC Moose, another tune with Spyda and a jungle EP which I’m finishing off for Deep In The Jungle. That’s another homage to the roots, too but on a jungle flex. There’s a bit of everything!

AKAS – I Know (Feat Sophie Paul) is out now on DeVice 

Follow AKAS: Soundcloud / Facebook / Instagram

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